Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Spirit Of A Master Builder In Glass

Zac Sexton is somewhat of a vagabond that between summers guiding and working on several video projects has also apprenticed and learned the craft of building bamboo fly rods in several notable shops.

Most recently Zac has been working with the Boo Boys at Sweetgrass Rods and while there spent quite a bit of time with the late Sam Drukman. Zac and Sam worked on a fiberglass project together that Zac is just finishing now and it may lead to other fly rods in the coming months. Time will tell on that part of this story.

Zac wrote... "I picked up a Loomis blank from the factory store in Washington, while searching for filming locations for Fish Whispering. Everything was blown and brown. I saw this blank sitting in the bottom of a barrel with other surf rods and the like. I picked it up and flexed it...noticing right away it was glass. I looked it over and noticed also that it was a raw blank that had not been cut to length. I bought it for a song, and went on my way back home to Oregon where I lived at the time.

The next summer I was guiding back at Rock Creek, and eventually made it to Sam's and showed him the blank. We looked it over and he noticed it was coated with something. He scraped it off and found it was a graphite powder! Sam surmised they coated it in graphite to make it look like graphite. He then told about a time when he was asked by Winston management to do the same. I had been learning from him for a while at the time and had flexed and whipped the rod to get an idea of the action. Just because a blank is a certain length from a factory does not mean that is the best length. I showed him that it seemed to flex best, if extended as far out as possible from the butt, making it as long as possible. He agreed and said, "That's a nice blank, but we can make it better." Then he did some Sam Magic and made it better. Once I got the grip on, we set the guides and wrapped them on. Sam wrapped one foot on the guides, and I wrapped the other foot. I was practicing my production wrapping techniques to help with Freestone Rods.

Then, I was away fishing in Argentina about this time last year, and Sam was diagnosed with late-stage leukemia. Everything fell apart from that point, and this project took a back seat. After we had said our goodbyes, I visited Sam's wife to catch up. I saw this rod sitting again, lonely in a shop corner. I picked it up, quickly and took it home. The tip had been broken while strangers went through boxes, trying to help make sense of what Sam had left behind. I repaired the tip, and got to varnishing the wraps. I'm still getting the last few coats on, and polishing everything up, but could not wait to cast it. I had yet to even cast it. Everything to this point had been from just feel, knowledge and theory.

I cast the rod a couple nights ago, but the line was icy, and it's hard to see what's going on in blackness...especially with a black rod! It felt good however and I slept soundly, knowing Sam and I had done a good thing.

This video is me casting the rod for the first time during the day, with un-iced line. It's a double taper four weight and it felt just perfect. It was on my lunch break from Morgan's shop, outside Four Corners, and I only had a few minutes to see what I could do in an approximately 25 mph wind. It's a rough video taken with my phone, but you can still see the even flex and that last 'pop' of power from the butt that levels out instantly, and shoots smoothly down the line. The tip recovers incredibly fast, yet the whole rod flexes evenly and fully. It went from a nice rod that "will work" to an amazing rod that is filled with the spirit of a master builder.”

It is very neat to see Sam's influence, even in his passing, with this project and we'll see what the next six months or a year holds for Zac and whether or not he'll offer blanks and finished builds on fiberglass blanks of this design.

No comments: